Politics

Minister Points Stark Warning Russia May Now Assault Ukraine ‘With No Discover’

Armed forces minister James Heappey warned that Russia’s troops surrounding Ukraine are now ready to attack with “no notice” as tensions are at a “critical juncture”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called for his Russian counterpart, President Vladimir Putin, to “step back from the brink” over an imminent invasion of its European neighbor Ukraine.

The West fears an attack could go ahead without any warning as diplomatic efforts to de-escalate the tensions have been so far unsuccessful – and so No.10 has also called for any UK citizens in Ukraine to leave as soon as possible.

James Heappey told BBC News: “All the conditions are set for Russia to invade Ukraine with no notice – that’s why the travel advice was changed on Friday and has been communicated as forcefully as the government can to British citizens in Ukraine over the weekend.”

He added: “There is an invasion force that is completely credible and completely ready to go.”

Heappey did not identify how many British citizens were in Ukraine or how many had left during his morning media rounds.

The minister also said this does not mean an attack is guaranteed and there was still some hope a diplomatic outcome could be achieved.

He told Sky News: “I hope that this is just Putin amassing forces for the purpose of diplomatic leverage, and no-one in the West wants to unnecessarily cause alarm.

“But we have a duty both as an ally and to our citizens in Ukraine to be clear on what we know.

“My nervousness is that if this was just a [political] play by Vladimir Putin, he had that when he had 50,000 troops on the border of Ukraine – but he’s kept on building them up.”

There are now an estimated 130,000 Russian troops gathered on the Ukrainian border.

Heappey continued: “I’m being very, very clear to people that they should leave Ukraine now while there are commercial means to do so and while motorways are available for them to drive out on over the border.

“This isn’t a warning of something that could happen in three months’ time, this isn’t a warning to be followed by other warnings because greater imminence has been reached.

“This is a warning because minutes after Putin gives the order, missiles and bombs could be landing on Ukrainian cities.”

He explained that all of Russia’s combat enablers – such as the logistics teams, fuel, and the medical suppliers – are now in place, so “the attack could happen effectively with no notice”.

Discussing the idea that Ukraine could avoid war if it promised not to join Nato (the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) – one of Russia’s previous conditions for de-escalation – Heappey said it was not for the UK to trade away Ukraine’s right to join up with other countries.

“It’s for us as an international community to safeguard their sovereignty,” the minister explained.

He also told the BBC that the UK is one of Ukraine’s “best friends in the world” and there was “real opportunity” to de-escalate the tensions.

Heappey’s calls to redouble the diplomatic efforts follows the defense secretary Ben Wallace’s description that there was a “whiff of Munich” when it comes to dealing with Russia.

This comment was perceived as a comparison between Russian president Vladimir Putin and Adolf Hitler, when other Western leaders attempted to appear to the Nazis ahead of World War 2 in the 1938 Munich Agreement.

However, Wallace’s allies promised that Wallace was not comparing Putin to Hitler, but referencing the way all diplomatic efforts could be scuppered if a leader was determined for war anyway.

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